The Netherlands’ 10-year wait for a victory over old enemy Germany continues after a strangely subdued 0-0 draw at the Amsterdam ArenA produced precious few chances in the 40th fixture between two giants of European football.
Germany marginally shaded possession but it was the home side who enjoyed the two best chances of the match, Arjen Robben rounding keeper Manuel Neuer in the first half only to see his goalbound effort blocked by Benedikt Hoewedes. And substitute Daryl Janmaat produced an excellent save from Neuer 15 minutes from time as a disappointing match ended goalless.
With both sides missing many of their key players through illness or injury, including the likes of Wesley Sneijder, Robin van Persie, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Mesut Ozil, both coaches sprang a few surprises before kick-off.
Tim Krul, expected to start in place of Martin Stekelenburg, made way for Ajax keeper Kenneth Vermeer with Feyenoord striker Ruben Schaken being preferred to Klaas-Jan Huntelaar. Marco Reus started up front on his own for the Germans, supported by Thomas Mueller in the absence of Ozil in a fresh faced and experimental line-up for the visitors.
The history of a sometimes explosive occasion promised much but produced precious few fireworks in the opening exchanges, both sides content to pass the ball around rather than commit full-tilt to creating chances. It produced a stalemate that saw not one shot on goal for the first 20 minutes.
Vermeer started confidently enough, twice coming off his line well to snaffle out some dangerous through balls. Germany enjoyed the better of the early half chances. Hoewedes crossed to Mario Goetze who twice found his shots blocked point blank by Jonny Heitinga. Minutes later Hoewedes again found space down the right flank to whip in a dangerous ball to Lewis Holtby running into the box but his scuffed shot and hit an orange shirt.
Despite Germany’s more threatening attacks, the Dutch should have been ahead right on the half hour mark. Ibrahim Affelay played in Robben who rounded Vermeer perfectly but was unaware of the presence of the busy Hoewedes, who sprinted back excellently to clear away the goalbound effort.
But it was Germany who ended the half on top, Reus fizzing a half volley just wide first time from Heitinga’s clearing header before first Mueller then Reus again had shots blocked in the box, Heitinga again doing well to impose himself.
Louis van Gaal sprang a surprise on the re-start, pulling off his most potent attacking threat in Robben and his most effective defender in Heitinga, bringing on Janmaat, Eljero Elia and Stefan de Vrij.
As with the first half, it took a while for the tempo to be raised, Germany earning the first half-chance 10 minutes in, although Reus failed to get enough on his shot under pressure from Ricardo van Rhijn from Holtby’s excellent cross. Again, however, it was the home side who carved out the one clear cut opening and it needed a fantastic save from Neuer to keep the scores level, flinging himself low to his left to keep out Janmaat’s effort from Dirk Kuyt’s lay off.
Van Gaal brought on another attacking threat in Urby Emanuelson late on as Joachim Loew sent on Lukas Podolski but neither side really threatened again in one of the more docile encounters between the two great rivals.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Daryl Janmaat – Netherlands: Only had 45 minutes of action to prove his worth but ran his socks off and produced some of his side’s best attacking moments. Would have won it but for a great save from Neuer.
Netherlands: Vermeer 7, Martins 6, Heitinga 7, Van Rhijn 6, Vlaar 6, Robben 6, Afellay 6, De Jong, Van der Vaart 6, Kuyt 6, Schaken 6. Subs: Elia 7, Janmaat 7, De Vrij 6, Emanuelson 6, Van Ginkel 6.
Germany: Neuer 7, Hoewedes 7, Hummels 6, Lahm 7, Mertesacker 6, Gundogan 6, Bender 6, Holtby 7, Goetze 6, Reus 6, Mueller 6. Subs: Podolski 6, Bender 6, Neustadter 6, Schuerrle 6, Draxler 6.
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